The world of online slots is full of fun and excitement, but it can be a little overwhelming at times, can’t it?
These days, we are all faced with an embarrassment of riches – there’s so much choice available when it comes to slot games that it can sometimes be impossible to make any sort of decision at all! And, when you do finally make your choice, you’ll probably be left wondering if you really made the right decision.
Today, there are more and more new slot games launched every month, and each one offers something different. Not only that, but there is a whole load of gaming jargon to go with them that isn’t always clear.
It goes without saying that if you’re playing with real funds, you want to know where those funds are going and that you aren’t being cheated. One sure-fire way to nip any disappointment in its bud is to make sure that:
- You are playing a game from an official game provider that is fully licensed
- You are playing at an equally fully-regulated casino.
In this article, we provide you with some useful tips to help you understand the world of online slots and get you started in your quest for the best online slot for you.
1. Slot type
Let’s start with the basics and look at slot type. First, ask yourself what you want to get out of your playing. If it’s a simple, fun little session, then you should go for 3-reel slots. This is the type that’s closest to that archetypal fruit machine, with three reels and relatively intuitive gameplay.
If, however, you’re after some more serious play from your online slots then you’ll prefer a 5-reel slot or a special reel set, such as the hexagonal structure you find in Siberian Storm. These broaden the gameplay and introduce more variations for the player.
On top of that, some games have integrated movie clips to spice up the action, so if you enjoy the virtual reality element, then you’ll want to go for titles such as Jurassic Park. Finally, you should consider bonus features and how much they enhance your enjoyment. If, for example, you get an adrenalin rush from free spins, or wilds (the symbols that can substitute for any other symbol to create wins and launch extra features), or even from bonus games, then go for the likes of Jumanji or Guns n’ Roses – games packed full of bonus features.
Special features come in all shapes and sizes and are as plentiful as slot themes. With the number of slots being constantly released, game developers and designers are always hard at work trying to come up with more innovative in-game concepts that are rewarding for players. That being said, most of these features still fall within pre-determined categories. Let’s outline them:
- Wilds – Wilds take the place of other symbols except for bonus symbols and scatters. In some cases, a winning combination of wilds can produce a high pay-out. There are different types of wilds, each with a different purpose:
- Normal Wilds
- Stacked/Extended Wilds
- Expanding/Cascading Wilds
- Sticky Wilds
- Walking Wilds
- Exploding Wilds
- Wilds in Configurations
- Random Wilds
- Scatters – These symbols tend to give out wins even if they are not aligned on a pay/bet line. They are also often used to unlock free spins or bonus games if you get 3 or more (depending on the game).
- Multipliers – These multiply your wins. If you win x15 your bet and you have a x2 multiplier applied to it, that means that you win x30. Multipliers can be introduced in several different ways depending on the game: through specific symbols, randomly, increasing progressively with your wins, in base game, bonus game, or both, etc.
- Cascading/Falling/Swooping Reels – (already mentioned above). When you make a win, the symbols in the winning combination vanish and are replaced by other symbols. This can create a snowball effect of consecutive wins for as long as winning combinations appear on the reels.
- Bonus Games – There’s a multitude of bonus games. However, most of them seem to fall into 3 categories: Pick n Click, Watch It Happen, and Press Stop.
- Free Spins – Free Spins are basically free rounds. They can be given internally, that is, by getting the necessary number of Scatter Symbols on the reels or by completing a goal. Otherwise, they can be given externally, which means that the casino itself gives you free spins. The latter can come with specific conditions (refer to T&C for that particular free spins offer). Sometimes, adjectives such as ‘big’, ‘super’, etc. are used instead of the word ‘free’ in free spins. This usually means that these free spins have a higher value than normal ones. Alternatively, ‘Real Spins’ are free spins with no wagering requirements.
- Re-Spin – Very similar to a Free Spin. Fulfilling special conditions will trigger a re-spin. Sometimes, you can trigger consecutive re-spins by fulfilling the same conditions during the re-spin.
- Nudges and scattering events – In-game event that pushes symbols around or re-distributes them to give you better winning combo possibilities.
- Synchronised Reels – A feature/event that locks 2 or more reels together during a spin.
- Other Random Events – An event that is triggered randomly and that improves your chances of winning such as Wilds dropping on the reels.
- Achievements – Some slots are moving closer to video games by adding achievements such as levelling up or trophies. These usually affect the game either by improving your skill set or by simply upping your chances to win more.
2. Number of paylines, Ways to win & Win both ways
What is a payline you might ask. A payline is the line of symbols you have to create to get paid. The classic, of course, would be the three gleaming dollar signs across the middle: $ $ $. Some slot games have just one, or only a few paylines, such as Dazzle Slots, which means it can be easier to focus on the action.
Then there are games with a very high number of paylines, such as Panda Magic Slots – great fun, but they can be hard to follow if you’re new. There are even games that let you activate the number of paylines you want instead of working with the fixed paylines dictated by the game.
There are 2 types of bet/pay lines: fixed and adjustable. ‘Fixed’ means that you cannot change the number of lines to bet on. While ‘adjustable’ means you can activate any number of lines up to the maximum number allowed.
An alternative to pay/bet lines is known in the industry as ways to win. They’re quite similar but not exactly the same. Some games, for instance, will not have pay/bet lines. Instead, they will pay out any time there’s a winning combination of symbols on adjacent reels, usually from left to right. One common type of games that uses this mechanic are games with 243 ways to win. A well-known example, designed by ELK Studios, is Taco Brothers.
Win both ways is a nifty feature that allows a payline to run not only from left to right but also from right to left. You find it on games such as The Catfather and Fisticuffs.
3. Bet levels, stakes, and coins
Most games allow you to customise certain settings such as coin value, coins per line, and more.
Coin Value is the amount of money you bet on a pay/bet line is usually calculated in coins. The setting Coin Value allows you to raise or lower the monetary value per coin. This setting is often found in the user interface on the main screen.
Another setting is Coins Per Line. All this does is allows you to choose how many Coins you want to bet per line to multiply or decrease your total bet. This setting is also typically found on the main user interface.
That being said, in the case of games such as the ones that use 243 ways to win, you won’t be betting a coin or more on each way. That would be too much. Generally, these games have a default bet amount applied to every spin of the reels.
Other related features of concern you can usually find on the main user interface include:
- Total Balance – Your total balance available
- Total Bet – The total amount of money you bet per spin
- Max Bet – This automatically sets the maximum amount you want to bet on the next spin
Think about your budget and the length of the gaming session you want. If you’ve got £20 to spend and want it to last a while, go for a game that allows low bet levels.
If your playing style is more gung-ho, and you always want to win big, then look for games with high limits. There’s a good range of slots out there to suit all budgets – Jackhammer is £500 per spin, whilst Royal Feast Slot is only £0.01 per spin.
4. Maximum win per payline/maximum coin win
You might think that jackpot slots are the only slots games on which you can win big. However, there are other slot games with impressively large max wins.
For instance, Book of Dead has a max bet of £50, and a maximum payout of £250,000 and Space Wars has a max bet of £200 and a maximum payout of £400,000.
You’ll come across different kinds of jackpots when you’re playing online slots.
- A progressive jackpot is one that literally progresses in value as the play goes along.
- A pooled or network jackpot is one in which the prize pool is being fed by multiple games.
- A local jackpot is one restricted to a particular locale – a specific online casino as opposed to across various casinos.
6. RTP and volatility/variance
RTP stands for Return to Player. What this tells you is the percentage of wagered money that will be paid back to players on average over time. Important to note here is that this is on average.
You’re probably wondering what is considered a high or low RTP, aren’t you? This is a little open to interpretation, but after looking at several slots, we can safely say the following:
- 94% or lower – low RTP
- 95-96% – average RTP
- 97% and above – high RTP
The usual RTP is between 96% and 97%, but some slots have high RTP, such as Bloodsuckers (98%) and Uncharted Seas (98.6%).
With most games, the percentage tends to be fixed. But in some cases, the percentage increases the more you play or unlock certain features. One example of this is Rabcat and Microgaming’s Castle Builder 2. The game starts off with a percentage of 95.5%. Finish the game with different avatars and the RTP increases to 97.5%.
Another factor to keep in mind is variance or volatility. This indicator tells you about the ‘risk’ involved when you play a slot. You get low, medium or high variance. In effect then, this goes from a high chance of winning a small amount to a low chance of winning a big amount.
Remember that at JohnSlots, we always mention RTP and volatility in our slot reviews.
7. Mobile or desktop?
Finally, it comes down to your preferences when it comes to devices. Do you prefer to play at home, or on the go? Perhaps you like playing on your daily commute?
Working out whether you prefer to play on your mobile or desktop will help you decide which games to go for. If you like a little of both then go for a game that works on desktop and mobile, such as Starburst or Golden Goddess. You can always check out our slot reviews to see if a game is optimised for mobile.